I have been thinking for a while now that we need to open up the child rearing conversation. We need to take it as a thing and critically dissect all aspects of the ‘project’, as a friend of mine recently referred to it. First off, especially in these parts (I write from Lagos, Nigeria), we need to stop thinking of it as a natural next step. Here, the ‘natural’ sequence of human existence is: be born, attend school, graduate, get a good job, get married, bear children, raise children, get old, die. Any deviation from this is largely frowned upon, unless said deviation results in one becoming extremely wealthy. If this happens, one is celebrated of course; because wealth is our ultimate hallmark of success. Interestingly however, even in the midst of this wealth celebration, failure to pass the ‘bear children’ checkpoint is seen as exactly that; failure. One can skip the ‘attend school’ step and dive straight into wealth, and we will write self-help books in their names. But skip having children? How dare you? I find it curious that a human race consumed by differentiation, especially in recent times, is at the same time so blind to it.
Not everyone has to have children. Not everyone is supposed to have children.
There; it’s been said.
Over 7 billion people in the world with different palm prints telling different stories, taking us down different roads. Our paths in life are designed to be different, and I think it’s time we start to teach embracing, truly embracing, this differentiation.
So, back to the children conversation.
First off, I think it needs to be a choice. The natural next step after being married does not necessarily have to be becoming a parent. Being a good wife or husband does not in itself qualify you to be a good parent. And people need to get that. Becoming a parent is something that has to be done deliberately and with as much seriousness as humanly possible. You have to, first off, take the decision, and then prepare for it. Study for it. Heck maybe even take an exam. Maybe it’s time we talked about ‘Becoming a Parent’ schools. Recently I assisted my fiancé (this is new; I’ll create a way in this piece to say it again) with his MBA applications and the entire process was so arduous. If we do decide to have children someday, I will remind him, my fiancé (there yo go), about how we studied hard to get the right GMAT score and how many revisions we made to his essays over sleepless nights; we must prepare for children even more intentionally than that. It’s not that serious? Listen; it’s even more serious.
Because how people turn out is largely a function of how they were raised. Because terrorists and serial killers have parents. You can ruin a business, but ruining a life from the get go? Not even giving them a fighting chance? It’s the cruellest form of man’s inhumanity. So before you take that ‘natural’ next step, before you do it for your parents, because society expects it of you, because your ‘aunty’ from the village whose opinions should have no weight in your life called to ask, because church people have started talking, because your best friend is on number two, because you think you’d look cute, because your king wants to feel like a man, because your queen’s crown is not complete without the additional stone of children; before you decide you want to be responsible for a whole human being, you better make sure you are as prepared as you can possibly be. And then, prepare some more.
Published originally on Akoma. Akoma is a community of creators, influencers, storytellers
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